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Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

California
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Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

Hi there!

I'm going to be arriving in Hanoi Friday night and departing Wednesday noon. The places I'd most like to visit are Hanoi (of course), Halong Bay, Hoi An, and either Sapa or Mai Chau.

I realize I don't have time to see everything, but I'm having a really tough time eliminating places. Could anyone advise on which of the places I mentioned are most worth visiting and the maximum number of places I could squeeze into my trip without the vacation turning into a mad rush. I am pretty young and energetic though--and this might sadly be my only chance to visit Vietnam--so I'm willing to go at a faster clip, if necessary.

Thank you so much for your help.

California
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1. Re: Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

Sorry, I forgot to mention that my travel dates will be 7-12 April, so maybe things like weather might affect people's advice on which places would be best to visit?

Saigon
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2. Re: Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

I am afraid that you can not do all. I suggest one day in Hanoi, one day in Mai Chau and 2 days in Halong bay. You can go to Sapa but you might miss the others.

Milwaukee, WI
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3. Re: Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

I would personally recommend Sapa over Mai Chau. I liked Mai Chau, but it was hot and dry (I was there the first weekend of May), whereas Sapa was cool and fresh and green. Sapa definitely takes longer to get to, though. If you decide on Sapa, just decide to Sapa and Hanoi only so you don't spread yourself too thin, and travel by night train.

Ha Long is gorgeous, so that's also quite woth seeing and in my opinion is best done with a single overnight on a boat. Again, though, you probably won't have time for much else except maybe a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda or the craft villages. (Go with the Pagoda, in that case.)

Hoi An is a wonderful city for tourists. The food is fantastic, the town is charming, the market is interesting and, of course, you can get anything you could dream of tailored quickly and cheaply. If you go there, allow as many days as possible! You can fly into Da Nang from Hanoi for about $50 or something like that and then take a taxi for half an hour into Hoi An.

So there's the breakdown! Just kinda depends what you want to see most! Hope that helps! Let me know if you need more particulars; I'm not an expert, but I lived in Hanoi for a year. (Left there about 8 months ago.)

California
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4. Re: Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

Thanks to both hungtopas and otherworlds for your response! Yes, it does seem to be a toss-up between seeing a variety of places (e.g., Hanoi, Halong, and Mai Chau) or just visitng Sapa.

otherworlds, your descriptions have me all conflicted again on what I most want to see! Everything sounds wonderful, but it looks like I'm simply going to have to return to Vietnam another time to see everything I miss this trip.

One question though: what is the shortest possible trip, including travel time, that one could make to Sapa from Hanoi?

Milwaukee, WI
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5. Re: Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

If you travel by train, I think there are usually departures around 9:30 p.m. that arrive at the Lao Chai train station around 5 or 6 a.m. the next morning. After that, you will take a bus for 45 minutes into the mountains to get to the town of Sapa. (So just reverse all of that for going back to Hanoi, only you'll have to probably leave Lao Chai on an 8 pm train, which puts you back in Hanoi around 4 am.) If you just spend one night up there, you could return the following night on the night train and be gone a total of...55 hours or so. Also, take into account that you'll probably be pretty groggy since it's hard (in my experience) to get much sleep on the train. I was in a cabin on the way up where an enormous man snored loudly the entire way, and mother played the radio and kept her light on all night for her little girl! If you do decide to go up there, make sure you trek out into some of villages around there, particularly a Red Zao village. Don't bother with any of the day-long market trips; they're a waste of time since they're really no more authentic than what you find right there in Sapa. (And bring your bargaining skills!!)

California
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6. Re: Only four full days in Vietnam -- please help maximize trip!

Oh no, sounds like you had the worst possible train trip, otherworlds. But thank you so much for the travel information. I guess it is possible to do a one-day Sapa trip but perhaps not desirable.